I am committed to protecting Vermonters from fraud, scams, and deceptive practices. Prior to being elected president of the National Association of Attorneys General, I was the chair of the NAAG Tobacco Committee and co-chair of its Consumer Protection Committee.
I have dedicated resources to ensure that Vermonters are informed and safe. I will continue to investigate and prosecute those who violate Vermont's consumer protection laws, which prohibits businesses from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts. The consumer protection staff represents the State of Vermont, and through the State, the public, by:
- utilizing the Consumer Assistance Program ("CAP"), using a "letter-mediation" process to resolve individual consumer complaints;
- investigating serious or widespread allegations of consumer fraud;
- filing suit, when appropriate, against those who have violated the Vermont Consumer Fraud Act or related laws or regulations;
- resolving serious or widespread consumer fraud abuses in a way that restores consumer losses and deters future violations of law;
- issuing consumer fraud rules (regulations), as authorized by law, to define in greater detail what conduct is unfair or deceptive;
- appearing before the Vermont Legislature on consumer protection issues;
- commenting on federal laws and regulations of interest to Vermont consumers;
- enforcing Vermont's charities laws and overseeing paid fundraiser registrations;
- conducting consumer education, and working to encourage fair business practices.
Teaming up with the University of Vermont -- CAP Program
Of all that we do in the AGO, I probably hear more positive feedback from Vermonters about our Consumer Assistance Program (CAP), operated jointly with and on the campus of the University of Vermont.
Each year we hear from thousands of Vermonters with their questions and complaints about everything from used car sales to charitable solicitations to telemarketers to apparent home repair scams.
Under the able supervision of Assistant AG Sandi Everitt, CAP is trying to provide more helpful information to consumers in quicker and more inexpensive ways by communicating online and through various social media mechanisms. And, by its multi-language outreach efforts, CAP is trying to be of greater assistance to the increasingly diverse populations of Chittenden and other counties in the state.
RJ Reynolds "Reduced Risk Cigarettes"
As more of the history of the tobacco industry's lying about the addictive qualities of its products and its marketing to kids has come into the public consciousness, some companies have been trying to bring to the market so-called safer or "reduced risk" products. There has been much concern in the public health community about these developments.
Our office took the lead against R.J. Reynolds and its Eclipse reduced risk cigarettes, alleging that RJR lacked enough scientific research to establish and advertise that Eclipse cigarettes do in fact present less risk to smokers than traditional cigarettes. After a five week trial in a Vermont state court, we won a resounding victory in the liability phase of the case.
We now move to the remedies phase in what will continue to be developments closely watched by various of the states and public health entities. Although a small state and a relatively small Attorney General's Office, we continue to play a significant role in various consumer protection and environmental protection matters.
For decades Big Tobacco lied about the addictive qualities of cigarettes -- marketing their products to our children and causing millions of Vermont taxpayer dollars to be spent treating tobacco-related illnesses. Within weeks of taking office, Bill stood up for Vermonters and brought suit against these corporations to end their deceitful practices.
The lawsuit resulted in a historic settlement with Big Tobacco that to date has yielded over $300 million dollars for Vermont taxpayers; and, as a result of Bill's leadership, Big Tobacco will continue to pay Vermont approximately $25 million dollars a year in perpetuity.
Bill fought to protect Vermonters from lead paint exposure by working aggressively with landlords -- filing suit when necessary -- to rid lead paint from our state's older rental housing.
Cyber Security Project
Bill teamed up with IT professionals and small business owners to determine how to keep Vermont consumers and small business owners safe from cyber scams. This new security project will put Vermont ahead of other states in the nation, according to Dr. Peter Stephenson, a Norwich professor and expert on information assurance, cyber warfare, digital forensics, and cyber investigation. Read the press release here.
Medicaid Fraud and Residential Abuse Unit
The Vermont Medicaid Fraud and Residential Abuse Unit of the AGO investigates and prosecutes crimes against patients, elders, and vulnerable adults receiving services paid for by Medicaid.
It also works to prosecute those who commit fraud against the Medicaid system by people or companies who provide services and Medicaid reimbursed goods.
The Unit also investigates incidents of fraud in the administration of Medicaid. There is a drug diversion initiative titled "When Healing Hands Harm," which is a video used to educate healthcare professions regarding the national issue of opiate addiction within healthcare facilities. There were four local case studies of individuals prosecuted for diverting prescription medications intended for their patients' pain management. This training tool was funded by a grand from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Officer of the Inspector General of the State of Vermont.
As a result of Bill's leadership, GlaxoSmithKline will pay Vermont $2 million as part of the largest healthcare fraud settlement in US history. Under the terms of the settlement, GSK will pay to the states and the federal government a total of $3 billion to resolve criminal and civil allegations that GSK unlawfully marketed certain drugs for uses for which the drugs were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); made false representations regarding the safety and efficacy of certain drugs; offered kickbacks to medical professionals; and underpaid rebates for various drugs paid for by Medicaid and other federally-funded healthcare programs. Read the press release here.
Bill secured $80,000 to the State of Vermont, as well as an additional $20,000 to the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District in Montpelier to develop a residential composting pilot project. Bill filed claims against Fabri-Kal Corporation for deceptive package on their "compostable" Greenware line, which was in violation of the state's Consumer Protection Act. Read the press release here.